Nabeel Qureshi. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, Mar. 2016. E-book.
The title of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus sums up what this book is about. The author is an American medical doctor. His parents were from Pakistan, so he was raised Muslim. His father had a career in the U. S. Navy, so from the perspective of a military brat living in various places around the world, his family’s religion was the one constant in his life. He fondly remembers the time they spent in the United Kingdom where they would get together with thousands of Muslims at an annual convention.
His father took Islam seriously and had a decent library on the subject. His mother taught him and his sister and made them memorize the Quran. That the author became a follower of Jesus, we understand, was not an instant decision but took years to accomplish.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus tells us many things about the religion that the author was raised in. Of course Muslims consider Muhammad a prophet and the Quran the only reliable scripture. Many things about his culture that he associated with Islam are typically Asian, not just Islamic. Then he tells how his faith was challenged by the Christian faith of a friend who belonged to the same college debating society as Qureshi.
Qureshi was told time and again growing up that the Christian Bible had been corrupted over time. Muhammad came to set things right, and the Quran in Arabic alone is God’s reliable revelation.
When Qureshi was challenged on this belief by his Christian friend, Qureshi asked his father and different Muslim leaders about this, and they all said the same thing. They were referring to various translations of the Bible like the King James or New International Versions, not the Bible in its original languages.
To make a long story short, Qureshi discovers that there are in existence parts of the New Testament in manuscript one generation from their writers. That there are over five thousand manuscripts containing parts of the New Testament, not to mention thousands of other ancient and medieval writings that quote Scripture. While the manuscripts vary some, most of the variations are spelling differences, and none of the differences affect any Christian doctrine. The book goes into far more detail, but that is a brief summary.
Meanwhile, there is no evidence that any part of the Quran even existed until two and a half centuries after Muhammad lived. When people started putting it together, it was based on what had been handed down orally to different men who then took another couple hundred years to even decide whether something was genuinely from Muhammad and whether it was inspired by Allah or a Satanic verse.
I recall reading some time ago (I think it was in the seventies or eighties) that some archaeologists discovered a collection of old Arabic writings from the time period when these Muslim scholars were trying to figure out what was genuinely Quranic. A few contemporary Islamic scholars were interested and began publishing articles in some scholarly journals analyzing these works. Two of the men were killed by radical Muslims who thought even looking into the origins of the Quran was wrong. No more research has been done since on these manuscripts. Compare that to all the work done on the Dead Sea Scrolls!
Interestingly, Qureshi arranged for a dialog between a Christian scholar and a respected imam that he knew. He described the dialog in some detail. It went well with respectful discussion until someone asked the imam about how he accounted for the reliability of the Quran in its present form, knowing what we do about its origins. The imam simply said he believed in Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet and walked away.
Imagine yourself like Qureshi who is sincerely seeking to understand the truth when that is the only answer this scholar can give.
Qureshi notes that the culture he was brought up in was typically Asian, not Western. Even Islamic Asians do not have a strong concept of sin. Sin is not necessarily wrong. Shame is. That is like the Chinese, Japanese, and other non-Islamic Asian cultures. Qureshi has some humorous stories illustrating this, and they help us understand some of the cultural differences that may be manifest in the name of religion. As I write this, the news is telling of a number of preteen girls killed by a Muslim suicide bomber outside a concert in England. To any Westerner—Christian, Jewish, atheist, whatever—that is wrong, sinful. To a non-Westerner, as long as there is no shame, it is probably OK.
Qureshi notes that authority is important in both an Islamic and Eastern context. He accepted many beliefs such as the one about the corruption of the Bible simply because people in authority had said so. It is very difficult to even challenge authority according to their way of thinking and doing. That probably even explains why the imam walked out of the dialog. Western Christians need to understand that as well.
Qureshi was attending an American college. He eventually would become a medical doctor. Here he became friends with the student debater mentioned above. They ended up rooming together and sharing their religious beliefs. They were friends and agreed to disagree about their differences. Keep in mind that this takes place in the United States, so there is neither political nor academic pressure promoting either religion.
One very important thing Qureshi tells us goes not just for Muslims but for anyone a Christian may be trying to present the Gospel to:
If had said that I didn’t want to know if Christianity was true, David [his friend] would not have pursued our conversation any further. He had long before realized that people who wanted to avoid the truth usually succeeded. (2239)
There is a lot more to the story. A few details are worth mentioning here.
Qureshi was raised as an Ahmadi Mulsim, a sect that began in British India when Pakistan was part of that country. In parts of Pakistan the Taliban will try to kill Ahmadis. The conflicts between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen are part of today’s news. However, Qureshi notes that the sects are not all that different. The large mosque his family attended in Virginia, for example, was a Sunni mosque, but it had leaders who were Shiite and Sufi, and men like his Ahmadi father were respected as well. There are differences, yes, but their faith in Muhammad and the Quran unites them.
Genrally, Muslims view dreams as being more significant than most Westerners do. We have heard and read of Muslims coming to Christ after having dreams about Him. So the Lord used dreams to speak to Qureshi. He shared one especially unusual dream he had with his mother. She looked up the interpretation of the dream in a book by the Muslim Ibn Sirin on dreams. That dream was pointing Qureshi to Christianity—even as he and his mother relied on Muslim interpreter of dreams.
One personal observation—at one point Qureshi’s friend David introduces him and his father to Gary Habermas, a professor at Liberty University. The meeting was arranged to discuss the crucifixion of Jesus because Muslims teach that Jesus was crucified but did not die. At this meeting Qureshi’s father says something about the Shroud of Turin. While this account does not say they discussed the relic at all, Habermas says “there is a lot of good reason” to think that the Shroud is the genuine burial cloth of Jesus.
That was interesting to this reviewer. Back in the early eighties I reviewed a book co-authored by Dr. Habermas called Verdict on the Shroud. In that book Habermas expressed doubts about its authenticity. So even this professor has apparently changed his beliefs about something he even wrote about after taking a closer look at the evidence. Should we all be so humble…